Should voters be concerned that Judge Jewel E. “Duke” Welch, who is running against seven other candidates for an open seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court, is raking in huge sums of cash from personal injury lawyers?
According to newly released campaign finance reports from the Louisiana Ethics Administration, he has received more than $97,000 in campaign contributions from personal injury lawyers over the past three months. LLAW found this represents more than 80 percent of his overall contributions.
LLAW has been reviewing contributions to all candidates in the Supreme Court race. With more than twice as many contributions from personal injury law firms than any other candidate, the Welch campaign findings stood out.
If elected, how will these personal injury lawyer contributions to the Welch campaign impact his ability to help Louisiana shed its growing reputation as a “Judicial Hellhole?”
Louisiana voters should also question why so many outsiders are supporting the Welch campaign. LLAW found he raised more than 50 percent of his overall contributions from outside the district, including a whopping $10,000 from personal injury lawyers in Texas.
Why would lawyers in the Lone Star state care about who serves on the Louisiana Supreme Court?
I have a theory: they file a lot of lawsuits here in Louisiana because the judicial climate is so out-of-control, and they want to keep electing their friends to the bench to maintain the status quo.
So do we want to maintain the status quo and continue being known as a magnet for personal injury lawyers? Or do we want to shed this bad reputation and start moving in a new direction?
Prior to November 6th, voters should consider these important questions. After all, having a reputation as one of the nation’s worst legal climates is not just embarrassing. It is also killing job growth in Louisiana.
The stakes in this race are huge. Good judges are the foundation of any properly functioning judicial system. They wield a tremendous amount of power and make critical decisions that affect our economy, our health care and our environment. This is especially true in 2012. The balance of our state’s highest court is in jeopardy, and we cannot allow a small group of well-funded plaintiffs’ lawyers to use their money to tip the scales of justice.
They’ve already poured nearly $100,000 into the Welch campaign, and more money is sure to follow, as Election Day gets closer. In fact, it is rumored that personal injury lawyers have already hosted two more fundraisers for him since the October campaign finance reports were published. These personal injury lawyer firms have every right to make contributions, but voters also have every right to know who is funding the various judicial campaigns and then render their own verdict on Election Day.
Elections have consequences, for better or for worse. Who will you support on November 6th?
Melissa Landry is Executive Director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, a broad-based citizen watchdog group dedicated to improving Louisiana’s legal climate.